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Updated: March 21st, 2013 4:20pm
Lawmaker wants to make Gophers and North Dakota rivalry a state law

Lawmaker wants to make Gophers and North Dakota rivalry a state law

by Jess Myers
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Lots of hockey fans think a continuation of the seven-decade rivalry between the Gophers and North Dakota would be a good thing. At least one Minnesota legislator wants to make future games between the Gophers and North Dakota a matter of state law.

On Thursday, State Representative Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) introduced House File 1654 which, if it becomes law, will provide $800,000 from the state's General Fund to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents in every hockey season where there is at least one game played between the Gophers and North Dakota.

Winkler, who played hockey as a youth in Bemidji, and whose brother Shaun played four seasons at Colorado College, said the proposed legislation comes due to concerns about Minnesota hockey traditions - including the one-class state hockey tournament, the Gophers long-time membership in the WCHA and the rivalry with North Dakota - going away.

"This is a rivalry we'd like to keep going," Rep. Winkler said. "We're losing a lot of important hockey traditions, and that's a concern. If Gopher football fans saw that the Iowa and Wisconsin games were going away, there would be an outcry. We feel the same way about hockey."

Winkler is a Harvard grad with a law degree from the U of M, but grew up watching the Gophers and the Fighting Sioux (as North Dakota was once nicknamed) play for many years. Conference rivals since 1951, next season the Gophers will play in the Big Ten and North Dakota moves to the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. There are no non-conference games scheduled between the teams for at least the next two seasons, although Gophers coach Don Lucia has said that he believes they will play North Dakota again in the future.

Winkler noted that as a finance bill, his legislation could still be heard and acted upon during the 2013 legislative session, which adjourns in May. The bill was referred to the House Higher Education Committee, of which Winkler is a member. He added that the dollar amount attached ($800,000) was not a coincidence, making a subtle reference to the sum the U of M paid to get North Carolina off its future football schedule.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers